New Vision

I guess I should be grateful that I got to age 46 before needing glasses. I have probably needed them for some time. In my late 20’s, I began to notice that the world didn’t have quite the same resolution that it used to. But it wasn’t too bad. And I staved off doing anything about it for as long as I could. But once my near vision became a problem, I could no longer delay the inevitable.

It’s funny talking about what it’s like to get glasses because most people I know have worn glasses since they were young. There was a point in my life when I kind of wanted them for reasons that escape me (my daughter, interestingly, suddenly wanted glasses at about the same age). But switching to them after four decades of unassisted vision is … an interesting experience. My proprioception is a bit off since they distort the outside of my vision. My phone doesn’t look flat when I wear them (although I don’t usually use them in that context because they blur the phone unless I look right down my nose). People in my peripheral vision look unusually thin. I almost feel like I’m looking into a pair of virtual reality goggles. I expect I’ll get used to that in time (I currently only wear them when driving or when reading while tired).

What’s really interesting, however, is that I can feel the glasses changing the way I see or more accurately, changing the way my brain works with my eyes. Wearing them has made me aware that I actually wasn’t “seeing” a lot of things before. My brain was taking pixelated information and interpolating it, guessing at what was there. I was aware that I was doing this when reading — not seeing the words clearly but being able to guess what they were. But now I realize this was happening all the time. That if I saw a sign on the highway that said “Speed Limit 55” I wan’t actually seeing it. I was seeing a rough “Speed Limit 55” shape and my brain was doing the rest of the work for my eyes.

With the glasses, however, I am actually seeing those things. The speed limit sign is clear. However, it’s again disorienting because the entire world is suddenly back in high resolution. There is way more information for my eyes to process. And that’s what I mean when I say I can feel my brain learning to see again; I actually get mild headaches from wearing them because the brain is a bit overwhelmed.

Again, this is something I’ll get used to. But I’ve always been fascinated by how the brain works and how it processes information. Changing the way my brain takes in roughly 90% of its information has been a crash course in that.

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